Sunday, January 15, 2012

Follow Jesus, Not his Followers

Follow Jesus himself, because if you follow his followers too closely, you may be led astray.

The College Years (18-early 20s) are a very challenging and important part of developing into Adulthood.  When I first packed up and headed off to Wayne State College in the Fall of 1999, I was full of excitement and fear.

I knew no one at the College and am an introvert by nature, so the idea of being in a brand new place, where I would need to make brand new friends, was pretty scary.  Nevertheless, at the time, I felt very strong in my faith.  I had had an important year of spiritual growth in my senior year of high school and was very excited to continue that growth as I started college.

I was convinced that I wanted to find a Bible Study at the Campus where I could find other believers who were as passionate about growing in Christian Faith as I was.  I found a group that met once a week in a room next to the cafeteria on campus.

What I ended up finding was a very legalistic, fundamental Christian group that taught that their strict beliefs were TRUTH and all of the other Christians were wrong.  As I attended the group week after week, my heart began to be filled with Fear, Confusion, Anger and Resentment.  I hated going to the group so much, but I was scared not to go.  They believed that we needed to quit celebrating Christmas with Christmas trees, and begin preaching on the corner of campuses.   "Me, preaching?", I thought.  That just isn't me.  But, they tell me that I need to.

After about 10 weeks, I finally had had enough, and said forget it.  I never went back to the group after that.  I also decided to quit pursuing my faith.  I had stuck my neck out searching for God, and been burned.  I decided from then on out I was going to go through the motions, but that was it.  I totally associated THAT group with God himself, and decided that if that is God, then I don't want anything to do with him on a personal level.

This turning away from God led me into a dark 8 year period of addiction, anxiety, depression, rage, and spiritual bankruptcy.

When I finally came to an end of myself and surrendered again to Jesus, I had a resentment that I needed to deal with.  I sat down with a dear friend and said "Why did God lead me astray back then?  I was passionate about growing closer to him, but I ended up with confusion, anger and resentment.  How could he do that to me?"

My friend looked over at me and said, "Just because you were led astray by a Christian Group does not mean that you were led astray by God himself.  He was there for you the entire time:  Walking you through your pain."

I sorta understood what he was saying and it helped a little bit, but I still resented God for allowing that to happen to me.  I also remained very weary about pursuing a close relationship with God again. 

About 2 years later, I heard something on the radio that gave me the healing that I needed.  Follow Jesus, Not his Followers because his followers are not perfect and they get it wrong sometimes.

From this I have been able to again pursue Jesus, but this time, I am pursuing him on a personal level.  YES, I need to be in fellowship with others, but if I don't agree with a particular group or person, that's alright.  And if I try out a particular Christian Fellowship and I don't agree with a lot of what they teach, I can just choose another one. 

The fact of the matter is:  The Bible is complicated and difficult to understand.  I believe there are a lot of things about the Christian Faith that we were never meant to understand right now.  I do know, however, that if I pursue Jesus personally, setting aside all OPINIONS ABOUT him, then I will never be led astray.

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